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gklingel52

Private Tour Reliability

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We are booked on Northern Europe cruise this summer that includes a 2-day stop in St. Petersburg.

My question is, should we be any more concerned with the reliability of the tour operators in SP than elsewhere?  In short, getting back to the ship in time on the disembarkment day?

In looking at the prices for the 2-day tours in St Petersburg, the cruise ship's price is almost double what the private companies charge.  All the cruise ship lines put the fear of God in you should the private tour does not make it back to the ship in time, YOU ARE SCREWED!!!.  Not sure hos often this really happens, but I know it does. 

Thanks for your input.

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1 hour ago, gklingel52 said:

We are booked on Northern Europe cruise this summer that includes a 2-day stop in St. Petersburg.

My question is, should we be any more concerned with the reliability of the tour operators in SP than elsewhere?  In short, getting back to the ship in time on the disembarkment day?

In looking at the prices for the 2-day tours in St Petersburg, the cruise ship's price is almost double what the private companies charge.  All the cruise ship lines put the fear of God in you should the private tour does not make it back to the ship in time, YOU ARE SCREWED!!!.  Not sure hos often this really happens, but I know it does. 

Thanks for your input.

It is perfectly safe to book your tours with the licensed, reputable independent companies in St. Petersburg.  I have never heard of anyone missing their ship in St. Petersburg and I have been there on multiple occasions (several times via cruise). FWIW, I have never booked a tour through the ship - I used Alla Tours in St. Petersburg and her tours are fabulous. There are other highly regarded operators as well - you can check them out on TripAdvisor (where they are rated from #1 to 400) and there are a host of recommendations on this forum.

Don't let the cruise line scare you!

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I agree. Just take a few minutes and read many of the threads on this forum about private tours. I would say just about everyone who posts here, for many, many years, we have all used the private tour companies and I have never heard of anyone, even close to missing a ship. Most tour companies who do the 2 day packages, usually take you to the furthest places on day one and keep you close to St Petersburg on day two.

Since you are posting here, asking for advice, here it is----NEVER do a ship's tour in the Baltics, especially St Petersburg, when you can get more for your money, and a lot less money at that, by using any of the more respected tour companies in St Petersburg. 

 

Cheers

Len

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Ditto Dogs4 and Len.

There are no tuppeny-ha'penny fly-boys in St Petersburg.

Visa-free only applies to tours with accredited operators, and if one screwed-up they'd lose their accreditation.

Last sights on the last day are those nearest the ship, giving them leeway to divert a replacement van if there were a problem.

 

And I agree with Len - tours are in 16-seat vans, not big buses. Much more personal, flexible, quicker to board & alight, quicker thro the traffic. etc.

 

JB :classic_smile:

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the ships do like to scare people with saying you may miss the ship if not on one of their excursions

 

I always do private tours wherever having researched companies first and their reputation would suffer if they caused people to miss their ship

 

this is all the more so in St Petersburg where they have taken on responsibility for you and they would be in a hell of a lot of trouble with their own Russian Immigration if they ended up with foreign tourists on their hand cos the ship had sailed

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In June 2017 I did a two day tour in St Petersburg with TJ Travel. I had a wonderful two days seeing so much in a 16 seat bus and for less than half the price of the ship's two day tour. As the others have said we went to the further sites such as Peterhof and Catherine Palace on day one and to sites closer to the ship such as the Hermitage and Church of the Spilled Blood on day two. 

 

TJ Travel also have a spare bus in case anything should happen to your bus such as a breakdown and guarantee that if you should miss the ship that they will get you to your next port at their expense.

 

I would happily use TJ Travel again and there are a number of other well regarded and reputable accredited local tour operators in St Petersburg. 

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all the licenced tour operators in St Petersburg are very careful about their reputation. If their clients miss the ship, they will lose people's loyalty for ever. I think they are even more scared to be late for the ship on the departure day than you are 🙂

That said, it is completely reliable to book a tour with one of the independent tour operators. There are quite a few of them mentioned here, so try contacting some of them and go with the one that seems matching your personal needs and interests. Some tours are for small groups, some are private, which is even more individual and flexible. I am sure you will find something that suits you best.

Enjoy your cruise!

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You will be fine.  There are many large well established companies who will be certain to return you on time.  

 

If you are extremely anxious, then you can do what we did in Guatemala and book a private tour for just your family.  Guatemala was beautiful, but sadly the government changes a lot to the cruise ships to dock there.  So there are relatively few tourists, and therefore the cruise ports don’t have a lot of vendors to choose from.  The one I liked the most had a review describing how they had the Holland America captains wife and daughter on their tour and they returned 45 minutes late, and the ship captain announced he would wait a short while for his family, but eventually they’d need to leave.  Thankfully they made the ship.  Normally I wouldn’t book a tour where this happened, but in Guatemala there weren’t many options, so I decided to book a private tour for just my family.  I knew if I told them to go back on a private tour for just my family, they'd return immediately.  And thankfully we had no problems and they returned on their own at a good time.  If you’d worry, You can book a private tour for just your family.  You don’t need to do this for safety about making the boat, but it would let you control the itinerary and maximize your time in St. Petersburg doing exactly what you want.  

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18 hours ago, Giantfan13 said:

I agree. Just take a few minutes and read many of the threads on this forum about private tours. I would say just about everyone who posts here, for many, many years, we have all used the private tour companies and I have never heard of anyone, even close to missing a ship. Most tour companies who do the 2 day packages, usually take you to the furthest places on day one and keep you close to St Petersburg on day two.

Since you are posting here, asking for advice, here it is----NEVER do a ship's tour in the Baltics, especially St Petersburg, when you can get more for your money, and a lot less money at that, by using any of the more respected tour companies in St Petersburg. 

 

Cheers

Len

Len,

Thank you for your informative reply.

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For what it is worth, Alla Tours (other companies may make the same claim, but I have not examined their sites) states on their website that they have NEVER in their entire operating history had a customer miss their ship.  Again, they could say anything, but I'm sure they would have been called on it here on CC.

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Always do private tours.....you will not need to worry, we had the same company for 3 days, and they build the extra time into that, just in case......The cruise lines will continue to put the fear of private companies so they can charge double for their overcrowded tours....Best part of doing private is customizing it YOUR WAY!!

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From what I hear, all the tour operators in St. Petersburg are very careful to get you back to the cruise ship on time. Their reputations and business depends on things like this. When we used Anastasia's Travel, we had no issues with this. Our tour guide kept an eye on the time, so we didn't have to, and they got us back. I didn't even really worry. Our guide does this every day, and they are aware of how much time they need to get around, get to certain places, and back to the ship. And I'm guessing they have a built in backup plan just in case. 

 

We never do the ship tours anymore (or very rarely). After the experiences we've had with private tours, we have completely switched. We've learned that by doing the private tours we learn more about the ports we go to. And we get to hear things about these places that you never learn on a standard tour. It's well worth it to do the private tours!!

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On 1/16/2019 at 5:53 PM, gklingel52 said:

We are booked on Northern Europe cruise this summer that includes a 2-day stop in St. Petersburg.

My question is, should we be any more concerned with the reliability of the tour operators in SP than elsewhere?  In short, getting back to the ship in time on the disembarkment day?

In looking at the prices for the 2-day tours in St Petersburg, the cruise ship's price is almost double what the private companies charge.  All the cruise ship lines put the fear of God in you should the private tour does not make it back to the ship in time, YOU ARE SCREWED!!!.  Not sure hos often this really happens, but I know it does. 

Thanks for your input.


Quite the opposite.  The licensed tour operators in SPB have some of the most uniformly excellent reviews, both in terms of quality and reliability, you will find at any port.  The govt is pretty strict towards them to make sure.  Tons of such reviews and comparisons between companies are right here in this forum.  OTOH, I would be hard-pressed to recall even one report of someone on a private tour missing their ship in SPB.

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On 1/16/2019 at 11:53 PM, gklingel52 said:

All the cruise ship lines put the fear of God in you should the private tour does not make it back to the ship in time, YOU ARE SCREWED!!!Not sure how often this really happens, but I know it does. 

 

Do you know anyone who has not made it back in Northern Europe?   I don't.  

 

As has been said, and this should hold true for all privately arranged tours, trips start farthest from the port and work back.  The last activity should never be very far from port so you always have an hour or so wriggle room at the end.  

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We rarely do a ship tour....last year we  did 2 days in St Petersburg with TJ Travel - tour was fantastic and they were prompt and took care of Visa stuff for us.....I think Princess likes to scare you into taking their overpriced and overcrowded bus tours with 50 people as opposed to the wonderful tour we did with 15 people and got to see and experience a lot more.

eclue

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I have never read one report from any of the companies listed in the posts above about ever missing a ship. Ever. All of these companies get great reviews and are committed to keeping their  good name. I would not worry.

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The main SPB tour companies are excellent and extremely reliable; their reputations depend on that. We had a private tour for our family of 4 and no issues whatsoever getting back with plenty of time. We used TJ

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On ‎1‎/‎16‎/‎2019 at 5:53 PM, gklingel52 said:

We are booked on Northern Europe cruise this summer that includes a 2-day stop in St. Petersburg.

My question is, should we be any more concerned with the reliability of the tour operators in SP than elsewhere?  In short, getting back to the ship in time on the disembarkment day?

In looking at the prices for the 2-day tours in St Petersburg, the cruise ship's price is almost double what the private companies charge.  All the cruise ship lines put the fear of God in you should the private tour does not make it back to the ship in time, YOU ARE SCREWED!!!.  Not sure hos often this really happens, but I know it does. 

Thanks for your input.

Private tours are good....until they aren't.  Only takes one occasion of standing on dry land, watching your ship leave the port, to ween you off of them.  Ends up being way more costly than the price of the ship tours.  That said, many folks have had luck with them, as you can see from other posts.  But be cautioned: at least five times over the years we have watched from our balcony while late-comers from a private tour come running up to the gate while the ship is moving from the pier.  Very unfortunate.  Likewise, we have waited to cast off on a few occasions for a late ship-sponsored tour to return so the passengers could embark.  Good luck and Happy Cruising!

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We used SPB.  They were great and we were back in plenty of time.  However, as the previous poster points out there is nothing that is 100% guaranteed (other than maybe the ships tour).  In St. P we were cruising with people who used the ship's tour.  We did a compare afterward.  Their price was about 15% higher and there were a couple of things that we did/saw that they did not.  This included a subway ride and the hovercraft to Peterhof (they went both ways by bus).

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8 hours ago, skipreality said:

Private tours are good....until they aren't.  Only takes one occasion of standing on dry land, watching your ship leave the port, to ween you off of them.  Ends up being way more costly than the price of the ship tours.  That said, many folks have had luck with them, as you can see from other posts.  But be cautioned: at least five times over the years we have watched from our balcony while late-comers from a private tour come running up to the gate while the ship is moving from the pier.  Very unfortunate.  Likewise, we have waited to cast off on a few occasions for a late ship-sponsored tour to return so the passengers could embark.  Good luck and Happy Cruising!

ok so can you  prove that that those late comers were on a private tour or more likely Diy on taxi?

we always use private tours with good reputations and believe me if they had ever failed to get their guests back in time they would be out of business

especially in St Petersburg the penalties are so severe for being left with "spare passengers" it just doesn't happen

 

unless you can back up your post you are just supporting the ships shore excursion propaganda that you risk being left behind if you don't pay over the odds for their overcrowded tours

 

if we ever  experience missing the ship we will change our tune but so far our experience has been back on board at least an hour before ships excursions return

yes we have seen "pier runners" but never from a reputable private company

how do I know?

because there are no negative reviews against them 

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10 hours ago, skipreality said:

Private tours are good....until they aren't.  Only takes one occasion of standing on dry land, watching your ship leave the port, to ween you off of them.  Ends up being way more costly than the price of the ship tours.  That said, many folks have had luck with them, as you can see from other posts.  But be cautioned: at least five times over the years we have watched from our balcony while late-comers from a private tour come running up to the gate while the ship is moving from the pier.  Very unfortunate.  Likewise, we have waited to cast off on a few occasions for a late ship-sponsored tour to return so the passengers could embark.  Good luck and Happy Cruising!

We're any of your five examples of your experience in St. Petersburg? Just curious. 

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2 hours ago, fabnfortysomething said:

ok so can you  prove that that those late comers were on a private tour or more likely Diy on taxi?

we always use private tours with good reputations and believe me if they had ever failed to get their guests back in time they would be out of business

especially in St Petersburg the penalties are so severe for being left with "spare passengers" it just doesn't happen

 

unless you can back up your post you are just supporting the ships shore excursion propaganda that you risk being left behind if you don't pay over the odds for their overcrowded tours

 

if we ever  experience missing the ship we will change our tune but so far our experience has been back on board at least an hour before ships excursions return

yes we have seen "pier runners" but never from a reputable private company

how do I know?

because there are no negative reviews against them 

Wow.  What an intense position you display.  Do you own a private tour company?  I did not mean to offend, just offer experiences, as was requested.  I failed to take pictures of the tour bus or request incident reports from the latecomers (because they missed the ship), but I know for a fact that some were from private tour companies.  But if you have some financial interest in private companies, I get it.  I was just helping the person out with their question, as I have seen private tours come in late.  Ours was late twice.  Once, the vehicle broke down and the other time the driver got "detained" by the authorities.  We were lucky to get back to the ship both times.  I do you the favor of not questioning any of your opinions; I ask the same in return.  This is not the venue for such.  Oh, and to help with your affinity for reviews, many companies, not just private tours, inundate the reviews with their own positive posts so that the negative ones seem remote.  They also challenge negative reviews, which often results in them being taken down.  So please be careful with enthusiasm for reviews.  But otherwise,  best regards~ 

Edited by skipreality
grammar

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10 minutes ago, swmichigan cruiser said:

We're any of your five examples of your experience in St. Petersburg? Just curious. 

None were St. Petersburg- we have not had the pleasure.  I think your odds are very high for success most anywhere.  But we have come to understand that there is a risk.  But there is a risk every time one crosses the street, I suppose.

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10 hours ago, skipreality said:

Wow.  What an intense position you display.  Do you own a private tour company?  I did not mean to offend, just offer experiences, as was requested.  I failed to take pictures of the tour bus or request incident reports from the latecomers (because they missed the ship), but I know for a fact that some were from private tour companies.  But if you have some financial interest in private companies, I get it.  I was just helping the person out with their question, as I have seen private tours come in late.  Ours was late twice.  Once, the vehicle broke down and the other time the driver got "detained" by the authorities.  We were lucky to get back to the ship both times.  I do you the favor of not questioning any of your opinions; I ask the same in return.  This is not the venue for such.  Oh, and to help with your affinity for reviews, many companies, not just private tours, inundate the reviews with their own positive posts so that the negative ones seem remote.  They also challenge negative reviews, which often results in them being taken down.  So please be careful with enthusiasm for reviews.  But otherwise,  best regards~ 

 

not sure why you would think I own a private tour company-far from it

 

I am a regular cruiser who has picked up a lot of useful information from these boards

I take reviews on places like trip advisor with a pinch of salt because as you say they can be written by anyone

However if a company gets regular positive reviews on these  boards I can be pretty confident because of the nature of this forum

 

 

Sorry you thought I was "displaying an intense position"

I was irritated that you were not addressing the  topic which was asking re private tour reliability in St Petersburg

Along with others who have pointed out the reasons why this issue of missing the ship in this port is just not going to happen your post was not helpful unless your experience of seeing private tour companies late back was in St Petersburg

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5 hours ago, fabnfortysomething said:

 

not sure why you would think I own a private tour company-far from it

 

I am a regular cruiser who has picked up a lot of useful information from these boards

I take reviews on places like trip advisor with a pinch of salt because as you say they can be written by anyone

However if a company gets regular positive reviews on these  boards I can be pretty confident because of the nature of this forum

 

 

Sorry you thought I was "displaying an intense position"

I was irritated that you were not addressing the  topic which was asking re private tour reliability in St Petersburg

Along with others who have pointed out the reasons why this issue of missing the ship in this port is just not going to happen your post was not helpful unless your experience of seeing private tour companies late back was in St Petersburg

Thanks.  I was responding to the original poster, who asked about the reliability of private tours.  But thanks for clarifying on their behalf.  

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